I read a comic strip many years ago that left quite an impression on me. A child is drawing with a new box of crayons when two bullies approach. They grab his crayons, and break every last one in two. The child appears on the verge of tears as the bullies walk away, gloating over their mischief. But suddenly the devilish grins are wiped off their faces as the child smiles and says “Yay! Now I’ve got twice as many!”

It struck me, of course, on that heartwarming level; the innocence of childhood. But it stuck with me because that kind of attitude is something I’ve struggled with. I have been critical, quick to recognize faults, and how things can be improved. Quick to find frustrations in trials. There is nothing particularly wrong with discerning a flaw, or even taking note of things going wrong. But for me it has taken all of my focus, with all my mental energy expended on thinking about the fault, why it is poor, and perhaps how it could or should be improved. How things could have gone better. With no thoughts left for the positive.

I used to say I was only being a realist, and not a pessimist. After all, I’m only observing things the way they are. But the truth is the world is not wholly bad. There are few things which are so flawed that there is no good in it. And in truth, optimism does not need to be blind to faults. It just places its focus elsewhere. Not looking exclusively at failures, it can find opportunities in spite of them. It can still see reality, yet make it better.

Another flaw in thinking that has been a barrier to a more joyful outlook is the idea that I cannot easily abandon the mood I am in. It seems a common idea that a bad mood is something that must be borne out until it passes on its own. Lately I have been proving to myself how untrue it is. Having thought this otherwise it amazes me how quickly I can switch from a bad mood to a good (and back again should I let myself). And the good mood is not something superficial with a knot still in my stomach as I grit my teeth and say to myself “I’m happy.” No, the knot, the tension, the heat, the racing mind, all pass. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” is not merely an observation. It is a warning and a light. You are not cursed with frustration nor endowed with joy. Both are within reach.

Last night when hunting for something I’d misplaced I started rooting through may desk. I pulled out one drawer far enough too look in the back, and far enough to let it fall right out onto the floor. “great.” The frustration began to hit as I picked up scattered items, but then it hit me. “Now I know it’s not in here!”


1 Response to “Positive”

  1. 1 esunhae
    November 26, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    🙂 Maybe there’s a connection here to the light/absence of light analogies that John uses…?

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November 2009
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